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Common Core SL.CCR.6 Explained

By Dave Stuart Jr.

All right party animals, let’s tackle the final anchor standard of the Speaking and Listening series.

SL.CCR.6 — that’s the 6th College and Career Readiness anchor standard within the Speaking and Listening strand of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for ELA/Literacy — says:

Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and communicative tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate

Are there any linguistics nerds out there? You’ll like this one.

The “language of power”

Although there are lots of beautiful dialects of English, there is a power-laden version of English (sometimes known as Standard American English, or SAE), and SL.CCR.6 reminds us that we need to equip students with this important dialect.

This is not about demeaning a student’s home dialect; instead, it’s about equipping them with what Lisa Delpit calls “the language of power.” This isn’t to say that home dialects aren’t cool; it is to say that those in power predominantly use SAE. Because of this, we want our students to have access to SAE so that they can be more agile in the college/career world.

In other words, if we don’t help students develop a strong grasp of SAE, we’re paving the way for a frustrating life. (Click to tweet this.)

Code switching

More broadly, this anchor standard goes back to TAP: task, audience, purpose. We want our students to use these three considerations to determine how they should speak. For example, we want them to know that in a conversation with friends they can use generous amounts of slang, but in conversations with prospective employers they should speak more formally (depending on the job).

In linguistics, the ability to switch dialects based on context is called code switching. It’s when we either consciously or unconsciously change speech patterns for the sake of achieving communicative purposes. For example, if I am trying to build rapport with students, I find myself using some of their frequently used words. When I taught in Baltimore, I occasionally even found myself slipping into my students’ home dialect grammatical patterns (don’t worry, their laughter always snapped me out of it!).

Back to you, readers

That’s a pretty simple but sufficient overview of this anchor standard, but I’m curious to hear from you:

  • Do you address code switching in your classroom? Is it even necessary in your setting?
  • Is the idea of a “language of power” disrespectful?
  • What challenges do you face in equipping your students with SAE?
  • Should SAE be taught in all classrooms?

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